The 2011 Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are in rebuilding mode. That much is pretty clear, given that they weren’t good enough to contend with Roy Halladay, and their chances of doing so in the AL East without him are slim and none. They’ve spent the off-season making trades for young, cost-controlled talent, reloading their farm system and attempting to put themselves in a better spot in the future.

But, there’s an interesting wrinkle to their rebuilding plan – they don’t really have much of a line-up for 2011 and beyond right now.

Here are their current projected starters for this year:

C – John Buck
1B – Lyle Overbay
2B – Aaron Hill
SS – Alex Gonzalez
3B – Edwin Encarnacion
LF – Travis Snider
CF – Vernon Wells
RF – Jose Bautista
DH – Adam Lind

Buck, Overbay, and Gonzalez are free agents at the end of this season. Encarnacion and Bautista are pretty good non-tender candidates, as both will likely be worth less than they would receive in their final arbitration season. Of their starting nine, only four are certain to be back next year, and if Wells has another poor season, he might find himself relegated to a reserve role, or potentially released.

Toss in free-agents-to-be in the bullpen, such as Scott Downs and Jason Frasor, and a huge chunk of the Toronto roster will probably be playing elsewhere next year. This leads us to two conclusions:

1. Expect a really large fire sale from the Great White North this summer. Once the mid-season trading season kicks into high gear, everyone’s going to be calling the Blue Jays. It doesn’t matter what you need, they’ll have one available.

2. The Jays are going to have a ton of money to spend next winter.

That second point is the interesting one that I want to focus on. Right now, the Jays have three players under contract for 2011: Vernon Wells ($26.6M), Aaron Hill ($5M), and John McDonald ($1.5M). Those guys total just over $33 million in commitments. That figure will increase significantly once they hand out arbitration raises to virtually their entire pitching staff (they have a stunning 11 pitchers who will be arbitration eligible next winter), but you’re still looking at only between $40 and $50 million in salaries for the guys who should be Blue Jays next year.

Assuming that ownership doesn’t pare their payroll back significantly, that should give Alex Anthopolous and his crew a pretty decent chunk of change to spend next winter. And, if there’s one thing that’s been pretty evident over the last two winters, it’s that a shrewd GM can do pretty well filling out his roster in free agency these days. Starting shortstops, even good ones, are going for $5 to $6 million per year. Power hitting first baseman are getting less than that. Good defensive outfielders with some power are signing for peanuts.

The young talent that the Blue Jays acquired this winter will be the core of the team that they try to contend with going forward, but they’re not going to be limited to just the guys they develop from within. Thanks to the payroll flexibility they now have, expect to see Toronto give their rebuild a jump start next winter.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Joe R
13 years ago

Just what I need as a Red Sox fan, another team to be a potential 90 win team in the near future in the AL East.

13 years ago
Reply to  Joe R

To Mr. Joe R…stop your crying!!! The Blue Jays, along with the Rays and Orioles probably have the toughest road to the playoffs for all the major north american sports clubs. That’s thanks the the Yankees (whom I am sure we both harbor some anger toward) and your precious Red Sox. Those two clubs with their giant payrolls make it incredibly hard to even attract players to the other teams in the AL East because no pitcher wants to face those lineups too often, and no hitters want to face those two staff’s too often. So if by some miracle the Blue Jays’ young players develop, AA can sign a couple guys and the Jays make a run I won’t feel sorry for the Red Sox.

FYI- I know your comment wasn’t especially harsh toward the Jays, I just went into rant mode.